Features | Interviews

Kid606, Pt. 2

By David Abravanel | 30 April 2009

Back for the second half, eh? Join CMG’s David Abravanel as he continues his lengthy conversation with Miguel De Pedro. When you’re through, head over to the Tigerbeat6 website to download Kid606’s latest mix, European Barbarians Get Down, for free. Miguel’s not a fan of Hugo Chavez.

Read Pt. 1 here.

Cokemachineglow’s David Abravanel (CMG): Were you ever into raves? Raves come up all the time in your records. Sometimes it seems like you’re taking the piss out of it, but there’s also a feeling there that’s perhaps a nostalgia for and comfort with that atmosphere?

Miguel De Pedro (MD): Oh, definitely. I have a real love/hate relationship with raves. I have a really weird background, growing up when the California rave scene was dying. My first time playing live was in this acid techno group, Aerial, with my friend. We had 808s [the Roland TR-808 drum machine] and 303s [the Roland TB-303 bass line synthesizer], and I was so young, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, playing raves. I hated rave culture, hated all these fucking people. When I was actually playing raves, as a young kid, I fucking hated it, hated everything about it. I was like, “fuck all this shit. I’m gonna make gabber and noise and crazy shit. Fuck this shit!” I really hated it, and I never took drugs; I was straight edge. I didn’t drink.

Then you grow up, and you realize—a lot of it is from going to raves in Europe—that [rave culture is] like everything. Heavy metal’s the stupidest shit on the earth, but Black Sabbath is one of the best bands ever. How does that work out? Rap music is complete fucking garbage, but look at these amazing anomalies of it! People always say, “95% of all music is crap.” And that’s true. But what if something is so amazing on one hand, and so horrible on the other? I think that raves are the epitome of that. If you wanted to make a list of the pros and cons of raves, it would be the exact same things in each column. It’s tons of people in a room, getting all sweaty, loving each other! That’s a good thing. That’s a bad thing. Everything about it makes sense to me—the love and the hate, wanting to scream and run out, and wanting to stay and have a good time, in unison.

I’ve had so many people who’ve come up to me and said, “wow, I had a roommate, or a younger sister/brother that was really into raving, and I thought it was so lame. But I listened to your music, and since you’re cool, I can listen to your music, and then I can kinda understand why [raving] is cool.” I think that’s funny, because it’s like I’m a weird ambassador for this society that I don’t even represent or feel close to. But I also think it’s really cool, because lots of people could benefit by just knowing what else is out there.

CMG: Going back to the album, “Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare,” the first single, features a hilariously macabre dialogue from Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart. How did that come about? I’m so used to hearing him in these serious, difficult songs about sexual trauma.

MD: [Jamie’s] one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He’s so hilarious. I just asked him to do it. People all say to me, “wow, you’re really not that funny; your music’s really funny, but you’re not funny.” Yup, them’s the breaks! [laughs] I know so many musicians that make the most boring-ass music, and they’re a crack-up. I know the most boring ambient people and the most boring minimal techno people that are just so hilarious, and always tell jokes, and are the life of the party. It’s really weird how that works out. I think Jamie’s super interesting, and funny, and nice, but obviously with his music you expect someone totally different.

CMG: Yeah, his music makes it sounds like he’s coming from so many earth-shattering issues in his life, that it’s funny to think of him as hilarious.

MD: The thing about people that make really miserable or dark music is they’re making it. They keep doing it every year; they’re touring, they’re singing those songs. It’s not so painful and so bad that they can’t do it. I know people that are really in pain, and they’re completely paralyzed by it. You have to have a certain relationship with your demons and you’re problems.

I’ve made so much music that I can’t finish because it’s too personal, and too sad. I’ll write a sad song, and it’s just like, I can’t do it. So I have to make funny shit, because I can’t deal with that. Jamie, on the other hand, can make a song about anything. He could make a song about someone raping his grandmother, and dropping her in a river, and cutting her head off, and sending it to him. He could make a song about that, because he really is so in touch with all facets of his being. I think me, and lots of people that make instrumental music especially, are just too uncomfortable to deal with the shit that they have inside, you know?

CMG: There was an album that you made, Resilience (2005), that seemed to be coming from a more personal place.

MD: Eh…I think I’ve made more personal stuff than that. The thing is, these are very abstract—they have meanings to me, and they’re personal to me, but to everyone else, you could play them that music and they wouldn’t [necessarily] feel it. Where all it takes is listening to some of Jamie’s lyrics—you don’t even have to understand the language, just the tones and the textures that he uses are ominous, they are oppressive, they are really dissonant, they are dark thoughts and dark things. If I have to be in the studio for eight hours, I just want to do something happy and nice. If you go to the dark place, you know, you just get stuck there. I say this now, and then I’ll probably release a record before I die that’s all misery and despair. But it’s much better to exorcise the good things than the bad things, if you’re the way I am.

CMG: Speaking of the goofier, happier side of things, the samples of this latest album are all over the place. I’m curious where you got some of them from. Like on “You All Break My Heart,” that woman is incredible.

MD: No! Oh, I know exactly who it is, I just forgot the name because I was asked. I totally love her. It was off one of her live records…I’ll have to email you when I find out. I know who it is, but when I get asked a question my mind goes blank. [Note: it’s Loleatta Holloway, from the song “Dreamin’.”] Yeah, the samples are just like you said, from all over the place, all over the map.

CMG: Do you ever worry about clearance issues? Like on “The Church of 606,” maybe the Detroit Grand Pubahs would be cool with it, but do you ever worry about Da Brat’s record label breathing down your neck about it? [Note: “The Church of 606” samples “Sandwiches” by the Detroit Grand Pubahs and “That’s What I’m Looking For” by Da Brat.]

MD: Oh, never. Compared to the shit I used to do, that’s fair use, that’s just a musical quotation. There’s no money to me made in music, period, much less [in sample clearance]. Nobody’s suing anyone. Musicians have figured out that the lawyers get more money than anyone else in the music industry. Nobody’s really interested in trying to get themselves a nickel so someone else can get twenty dollars when they might not even get that nickel. Also, now, everyone’s desperate for promotion, everyone wants to be name-dropped, everyone wants to be included. Would I give a shit if Da Brat sampled some snare or beat of mine? Hell no, I’d just be happy to talk about it. I’m not saying she’s happy to talk about it, but she’s happy that you just mentioned it. It’s all part of the collective consciousness, that more people are mentioning Da Brat and the Grand Pubahs.

Before, people didn’t take the idea that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as a compliment, but now it is. Now, imitation is the best form of promotion, not just flattery. There’s not this money-hungry pool of lawyers that really want to get at taking a share of underground records, like the world thinks there is. It’s more like, if you do something that pisses someone off, then you’re in trouble, because they can sue you for that.

CMG: So you never got in any hot water over what you used to do?

MD: Never, none, whatsoever. I got promo packages from record labels saying, “sample it, do whatever.” I got sent the new Britney Spears, saying, “hey, do a remix!” Think about how many people there are paid at a record label to do everything. They have more than enough people to figure out “oh, this is not a bad thing.” Think about why the promo 12” that they would press up, just to give them away, lasted so long. You had to spend money to get that kind of promotion, of people playing your music.

CMG: Changing gears, what is your general setup for making music these days? Is it mostly computer-based, or is there also something analog going on?

MD: It definitely always has to end on a computer, but I use everything: guitars, keyboards, drum machines, MIDI controllers, a bunch of analog synths. I think now, I have the most comfortable situation I’ve ever had, because I have a really nice studio, and I have everything laid out. It really hasn’t changed ever since I started.

There was a time that I was making music just on a laptop. I really hate that era, because I listen to it, and it’s just so thin. I don’t think music should only come from a computer, if you want to have it personal, and want to have a big sound. There’s only so much you can generate within a computer—unless you’re just sampling all this stuff that was generated in other ways—and not have it sound thin and computerized.

CMG: And what releases were those?

MD: Oh, I don’t want to say. Let people figure it out. I just know so many people that make music just on a computer, and they say, “it’s doesn’t sound right. The mastering will fix it.” You know what? I thought that for five fucking years. There’s some things that mastering just can’t fix, you know—shit in, shit out.

The amount I’ve had to learn is really great, but the shame of not knowing this stuff before you got all this attention and before you sold a bunch of records is really annoying. I really think that, with me, so much came too soon. I didn’t even ask for it, I just was doing what I thought I was supposed to do: make music, go around and play it. It was just way too soon to have people take you seriously, musically and artistically, when later on you see things in such a better light and you’re like, “oh, okay, that’s how it should be done.” I have no regrets, but I’m saying, it’s really funny when other people think what you’re doing is the peak, or what you’re doing is right.

CMG: Maybe I’m guilty of that—I still think Down With The Scene (2000) is one of your best albums, and that’s an earlier one.

MD: Talking about personal achievement, that’s always the case. All my favorite records by musicians are always the last records—I don’t like the new Skinny Puppy record, I like the one from ten years ago; I don’t like the new Ministry record, I like the one from ten years ago. But, I know that there’s a certain level of a technical area where it’s like, I was making records before I literally knew what the hell I was doing. I don’t make any better music just because I know what I’m doing, that’s what I’m trying to say. I’m sure those other records were better in a youthful way, for all the reasons you might like it more than you like the new record. What I am trying to say is, wouldn’t it have been great if I had the time and energy, and was given the means back then, to be more proficient? It’s a funny thing. It’s like when people go to a country and they don’t know the language, and then they learn the language when they go back there—that’s how I feel. I’m not going to have a better time, it’s not going to be any better of a thing, but you’re just like, “wow, now I understand.”

CMG: At the same time, I would say that the tradeoff is that you were able to become a star in the glitch movement when you were barely out of high school.

MD: I never went to high school [laughs].

CMG Oh yeah?

MD: That’s probably why, because that’s all I was doing. I don’t think that that’s any better than doing it ten years later. Most of the musicians I love the most are old farts. I just did it because I had to do it, but I don’t think that anyone should be discounted for starting at a late age. I think most young musicians suffer from so many really fatal flaws. I think I read somewhere that Trent Reznor didn’t write his first song until he was 29?

CMG: I don’t think that’s true, because he was in that synthpop band.

MD: Yeah, but he didn’t write any songs. It was like a cover band, or the other people wrote the songs; he was too scared to, or something like that [Note: the first Nine In Nails single, “Down In It,” is credited as the first song Reznor ever wrote. It was released in 1989, when he was 24.]. Not even given that, I know tons of musicians that are old motherfuckers. Two of the people that I think are two of the greatest electronic musicians, Mouse on Mars, they’re both over 40—maybe 45. They started late, but everything they’ve done has been really good.

CMG: Wow, I didn’t realize that. What are your creative relationships like with other musicians in Berlin—are there any collaborative plans there?

MD: Yeah, a bunch. I think that Berlin’s a great city to be a musician, or to live with other musicians. But I think [there’s] a general attitude of “it’s so cheap, anything goes.” You end up partying more than you end up working. I think that when people actually get in the studio, and actually get working, they have to do their own music. I’ve flaked out on so many things since getting here.

I used to work with musicians in Berlin when I was here for two days; we’d find the time because I was only there for two days. But when you live here, it’s like, fuck, we’ll just do it tomorrow. It’s a real “all the time in the world” mentality, because it’s just so casual.

CMG: Well, I think the world is waiting on your Richie Hawtin collaboration.

MD: [laughs]

CMG: Is there anything else you want to talk about? I like to keep an open forum at the end.

MD: Uh, how often do you have people actually say something?

CMG: Sometimes. Usually someone wants to promote a new single coming out, or something like that.

MD: Yeah, that’s definitely not me. The thing is, it’s all call and response, where you train people to answer questions. Then you turn around and say, “make up your own question!” What if I just ask you to answer the question for me? [laughs] I think that there’s nothing I couldn’t talk about. That means I probably shouldn’t talk about anything.

CMG: I didn’t go as much into the nitty gritty of making the album. Personally, I’m a synth geek, so…

MD: Oh, I can tell you really quickly. It was the [Dave Smith Instruments] Poly Evolver, Access Virus, most of the synths are the Korg MS-20, a little bit of [Sequential Circuits] Pro One, uh…what plugin do I really love?…lots of compression [laughs]. The Nord Rack Two on a bunch of songs.

CMG: Press photos suggest that you own a [Roland] [TB-]303, [TR-]606, and [TR-]808, which is pretty cool.

MD: Yeah, I got rid of the 808. I have a x0xb0x, which is pretty amazing.

CMG: That’s the one where they actually reverse-engineered the circuits on the 303?

MD: Yeah, it’s a girl in Boston. It’s funny—you get one, and you’re like, “I’m going to make a whole record with this!” And then it’s still a 303 [laughs]. I love the 303 more than I like making music with it. Out of respect, because some of the most amazing music was made with it, you have to hang on to it. But I don’t think I’m ever going to make that whole record, where every song has a 303 on it.

CMG: Going off of that, last question: “Kid606,” is that the drum machine or Satan? Or both?

MD: Satan is 666.

CMG: Yeah, but I figured maybe you were making a joke?

MD: It was based on the drum machine. It was a side project of my other bands. I was in the acid techno and this other kind of electro/gabber group, and Kid606 was my stupid side project that I thought would never last a month; I would just release one record, as a joke. Instead, that took off, and everything else I was trying to do died.

There was Prototype 909, and 808 State, and Aphex Twin—I thought it was a funny thing for electronic musicians. I think it’s a joke for people to name themselves after gear. How uncreative and lame is that? So I was like, “I want to have this stupid project; that’s how people will know it’s this stupid project.” Fifteen years later, you’re doing this stupid project as a living and trying to get people to take your serious projects seriously and they don’t want to [laughs].

CMG: That was a questions from another writer at CMG—when were you going to do the 808 State mashup—but I guess you just kind of answered that. So Aphex Twin was named after a piece of gear?

MD: Yeah, Aphex Compressors. It’s really funny—on the early Aphex Twin records he has to say on it that Aphex Industries is not related to Aphex Twin. It’s so stupid, it’s not like they invented the word.

CMG: And I’m guessing you’ve never gotten any shit from Roland?

MD: Oh, no.